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News Release

Policy and Resources Committee - January 10, 2013

14th January 2013

Councillors on Policy & Resources Committee considered have draft local police and fire and rescue plans, considered the council’s latest revenue monitoring and agreed a major channel shift programme, when they met last Thursday.

The meeting began with three items, focused on the transition of Police and Fire and Rescue Services into the new single forces, which local councillors will have local governance arrangements. As part of the discussion, a draft response to a consultation exercise was approved, along with the Draft Aberdeenshire Police Plan and the Draft Fire and Rescue Plan.

Draft Aberdeenshire Police Plan
Chief Superintendent Mark McLaren explained that the priorities for Aberdeenshire would include including road casualty reduction, anti-social behaviour and community focused policing. There will also be individual ward based plans, focusing on very local priorities. The draft plan will be consulted with area committees before being presented to P&R committee for approval on February 28. Chief Supt McLaren reported that there are 377 police officers in Aberdeenshire and 64 members of support staff with no indication these numbers will change dramatically in the next 12 months.

Draft Fire & Rescue Plan
The draft Fire and Rescue Plan was presented by GFRS Head of Operations, David Rout, who said the operational structures have not yet been approved by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Board. He confirmed that the north hub headquarters will be based in Aberdeen and reassured members that, although the template of the plan may change, the local priorities will not. He said that, as the service moves to being Scotland-wide, there will be access to national resources (which already happens to an extent – an example was use of Swiftwater Response Unit from Tayside during Stonehaven flooding in December).

Revenue Budget Monitoring
Head of Finance Alan Wood explained that the total underspend for the end of the financial year is forecast as £23 million. The key message given was that the underspend is not a bad position, as long as frontline services are being delivered. The council continues to take a much more risk-based approach to budget monitoring. Councillors approved transfer of £6 million to the reserve for Digital Connectivity on top of £6 million already earmarked. That means nearly £4 million of underspend left which has not yet been allocated. Director’s gave updates on their own budget:

  • Director of Social Work & Housing, Ritchie Johnson: Forecast to be within budget by £2.3m. £1m relates to the staffing projected to be required for the new care village in Stonehaven and planned care village for Inverurie. There’s been a big and rolling push to recruit home carers. Five modern apprenticeships in home care have been created.
  • Director of Education, Learning & Leisure, Maria Walker: Figures show 40 more teachers employed than last year. There is an issue of recruiting teachers across Aberdeenshire, particularly in the north-east including Peterhead and Fraserburgh. The service is advertising permanent posts as far as possible, to help attract teachers to come to Aberdeenshire and stay.
  • Director of Infrastructure Services, Stephen Archer: All vacant posts filled in economic development and in planning. Seven modern apprentices have been created in transport to meet challenge of recruiting mechanics.
  • Director of Corporate Services Christine Gore: Biggest staffing variance is in ICT because of major restructure which has now been completed and came into effect on Monday. A recruitment programme will be rolled out over coming months.

It was highlighted that HR is working with services on recruitment including recruitment days, campaigns targeting difficult to fill posts, Future Leaders Programme and aim for 50 apprenticeship posts this year.

Responding to questions about funding for flood management, Director of Infrastructure Services, Stephen Archer, said efforts are underway to speed up the implementation of a flood alleviation scheme for the town, which could take up to five years.

Council Chief Executive Colin Mackenzie said: “We have done what required to be done in the 11 separate parts of Aberdeenshire where there were serious incidents. We have not taken the view that money has been an obstacle.”

Capital Budget
Head of Finance Alan Wood gave details of a £78 million capital expenditure forecast for 2012/13. He said the sales forecast has reduced significantly and officers are developing a strategy for disposing of assets within the council.
In response to questions from councillors, Head of Property & Facilities, Allan Whyte, said tenders are being assessed for Kemnay Academy; tenders are expected next month for Ellon Academy; there has been a successful consultation event for Kintore Primary and the Kinnellar Primary project will now be a main project in the Capital Plan.

Living Wage supplement
Members unanimously agreed to and welcomed the introduction of the Living Wage supplement of £7.20 per hour, including proposals to backdate it to April 2012.

Improving the Customer Experience (iCE)
Report approved unanimously. Head of Customer Communication and Improvement, Kate Bond, told members that customers were increasingly seeking to access services at a time and in a way that suits them. There are no proposals to shut any existing systems, but to enhance opportunities available for customers to access information and services.

Worksmart and Workspace
Update report approved unanimously. Councillors were reassured the area committees have been consulted with as part of the process.

Provision of Managed Records Storage
Councillors approved recommendation to award new off-site contract to Removals Services Scotland for an initial period of four years.

Digital Connectivity
Members unanimously approved the report which notes progress of proposals to develop improved broadband infrastructure in Aberdeen City and Shire and sets out governance arrangements for delivery of the projects.

Remit of the Gypsy/Traveller sub committee
Members unanimously approved the revised remit of the sub-committee.

Development of a Gypsy/Traveller stopover site
Members agreed in principle to the “potential” of a gypsy/traveller stopover site at Aikey Brae at Old Deer. After some discussion it was agreed there would be further consultation, including with the area committee, then the item would go to the Gypsy/Traveller sub-committee before returning to Policy & Resources Committee for a final decision.

Local Housing Strategy
Members agreed to introduction of the Equity Release Loan Fund Scheme from June 2013 and the Empty Homes Loan Fund Scheme from April 2013.
After some discussion they asked officers for an options appraisal of the proposed Local Authority Mortgage Scheme and Loans to Registered Social Landlords Scheme.

Biomass Pellets tender award
Members unanimously agreed to award of new Biomass Pellets supply contract to Puffin Pellets Ltd of Banff.

Aberdeenshire Window Upgrade
Members unanimously agreed to approve funding of £74,500 for Aberdeenshire window upgrades 2011/12.

Maintenance Strategy 2013/14
Members unanimously agreed to approve the programme of planned and additional maintenance for 2013/14, additional repairs for 2012-14 and the maintenance strategy.


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